Common Soccer Concerns from Parents: Age Athletes Peak I had a conversation with a parent the other day that I have had with many, many parents over my career as a soccer coach. The conversation almost always goes the same way so I thought I would finally take some time and create an article to discuss this topic. I was having a conversation with the parent of a newer player to the team. This parent was concerned about her daughter’s soccer development and her ability to play at the next level. She was asking if she needed some extra private coaching so she could develop her skills faster. Now, I am coaching a very competitive team so the fact that her daughter is on the team says a lot to her skills. Also, her daughter is only 13 years old and as an experienced coach of all levels of soccer, I have a certain expectation of skill development based on a players age. I then asked a question that I always ask in this situation.
I asked her mom, “What age do you think the typical female soccer player peaks in their development”. I get a range of answers but they are usually in the 15-18 range. In this case she said, “16-17”. This helps to explain the mother’s concern for her daughters development. If she only has 3 more years to go before she ‘peaks’ then there should be a lot of concern. However, I explained to this concerned parent that if soccer players peaked at age 16 then we should see players in the 16-18 range playing at the highest levels of the sport. But this is not the case. The U.S. Women’s National Team typically fields players in their early to mid-20s. I then explained that typically female soccer athletes peak in their mid-20s and for men soccer players it is actually the late 20s to early 30s. I spent the next few minutes discussing what a premier player at her age should be able to do and what she needs to do to be ready for the next level. This gave the mother a lot more perspective and comfort about her daughter’s soccer development. The next question I typically get is how can the parents help to ensure he/she will be good enough to play on the high school team and position them to play soccer in college and even possibly earn a scholarship. I know this is often in the back of parents minds, especially for those players on competitive select traveling teams.
I like getting this question from a parent of a 11-12 year old because there is a lot of benefit to start thinking about that at an early age. I have learned many secrets to the college soccer recruiting process and have helped many of my high school players attain a soccer scholarship. I have learned there are many things athletes in their junior and senior years in high school can do to successfully navigate the soccer recruiting process to increase the chances of earning a college soccer scholarship. However, I have also learned that there are many things that someone who is around 11-12 can start doing to really improve their chances. While your son or daughter will not be peaking in their soccer career at age 16-17, there are many opportunities to improve the chances of playing at the collegiate level and beyond when you can start thinking about the process at 12 years old vs. 17 years old.